Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Yarn Shop Day

Fabrications is proud to be a part of the 'Love your yarn shop' campaign. Initiated by Let's Knit and their sister magazine 'Let's get Crafting' the aim of the National campaign is to raise the profile of  bricks and mortar yarn stores, encouraging Crafter's to support their local yarn store and celebrate the value we offer beyond just selling wool! including personalised advice, ideas, expert recommendations, classes, socials, SOS (save our stitches!) and much more!

The campaign culminates with 'Yarn Shop Day' on Saturday 3rd May, when customers and local yarn stores all around the UK will join forces to spin a yarn and share their yarny love. Different shops will be hosting free workshops, promotions and inviting in knitting & crochet 'Ambassadors'.

How will Fabrications be celebrating Yarn Shop Day?

We will have an open house, offering free taster workshops in MACRO knitting, continental knitting and projects advice / SOS in our beautiful and welcoming Imaginerium craftspace. In conjunction with Stylecraft we are also offering Goody Bags - cotton bags containing yarns, haberdashery, knitting patterns to the first 40 Yarn Shop Day customers! Look out for our special window display too, which is going to spill out into the street!

Which Ambassadors will be with us on the day?

- Fabrications own Barley Massey will be sharing tips on MACRO knitting and making your own upcycled yarns
- Jill Bulgan, a regular adviser at our fortnightly Craft Club and teaches the 'progressing your knitting skills' classes will be available to offer some help with your projects and knitting dilemmas.
- Luise Roberts, author of numerous knitting and crochet books including 'First Knits' published by Collins & Brown (and on sale in our shop!) who informs me she loves to demo continental knitting as her party trick and is generously providing a free pattern of her Marilyn Monroe finger puppet for the goody bags!

Do I need to book?

Although it is free and drop in style, we'd be grateful if you could book in so we can accommodate you and ensure we have brewed enough tea and cake and prepared enough materials (for example you can make a MACRO knitted scarf) You can do this HERE!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Meet the Maker- it s Rosie Martin of DIY Couture!

I'm enjoying the opportunity to carry out mini interviews with the different makers I am fortunate to be able to work with at Fabrications. In this post I present the wonderful Rosie Martin.

I first met Rosie approx 4 years ago, when she visited the shop to show me her self published 'DIY Couture' garment instruction books. I was really impressed with her well illustrated, clear cut, step by step guides to making your own stylish clothes, without the complications of highly technical patterns. Wow! Really empowering for new stitchers, I thought. I instantly wanted to stock the books and have Rosie teaching her approach at Fabrications.

So subsequently, students have enjoyed learning how to make their own capes, trousers, scater skirts, waistcoats with Rosie s gentle guidance and this month she will be showing how to make a very simple gathered dress (suitable for beginners) or 'Grecian' dress for those of you that have seen Rosie's bumper DIY Couture book, published by Lawrence King (and on sale at Fabrications, of course!)

Barley : What inspired you to first start creating your DIY Couture instruction garment making books?

Rosie : I was a gung ho clothing maker as a teenager and experimented in making clothes without really using sewing patterns. I went through years of trial and error until I started to make clothing that looked socially acceptable – even pleasant – and when people started to comment positively on my clothing my reaction was to preach about the joys of sewing. I often found people were afraid of sewing, thinking it was out of their grasp, and I really wanted people to see that making clothes was in fact an accessible activity, not something you needed a degree to do. That’s how my picture based instructions were born.

Barley : Do you have a favorite garment or item you enjoy making?

Rosie : I love a good colourful bomber jacket and I do own a few too many homemade versions. I’ve designed a really simple jacket without set-in sleeves (instructions in my Laurence Kong book!) so it’s actually quite a fast project, meaning great satisfaction can be reached without too much toil!

Barley : What is your best and worst fabric to stitch with and why?

Rosie : I actually love sewing with sheer (transparent) fabrics as it presents challenges but is really satisfying. I hate sewing velvet. It has a mind of it’s own and mystical power over the sewing machine. I have recently got into applying interfacing and spray starch to fabric to change its essential properties. This means you can transform an unruly fabric into a fabric that does exactly what you tell it to. Ha! No fabric gets one over on me (apart from velvet!)

Barley : A little birdy told me you've been working behind the seams of  the 'Great British Sewing Bee' TV programme...what did you get up to?

Rosie : Ah yes, I have and it has been a lot of fun! I have the great pleasure of working with sewing guru Claire-Louise Hardy, the sewing producer of the ‘Bee. Amongst other things, I do the technical illustrations on the instructions the contestants follow when they are given the first challenge, so if they look confused you can probably blame me.

Barley : What words of advice can you offer new stitchers, who want to make their own clothes but perhaps are not sure about how to go about it?

Rosie : I’ve got a very hands-on approach so I would say pick something you really want to make and make it! There is an amazing world of sewing-support on the internet, so whenever you get stuck just Google your problem and someone out there will have already posted some advice about it on the internet!

To book your place on Rosie's dress making class on Sunday 30th March, visit Fabrications workshop Calendar

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Meet the Maker: Gilda Baron

Over my 15 years of running Fabrications, I have promoted, sold work, collaborated with over 200 talented textile practitioners. In my shop I have explanation cards alongside makers work, giving insight into the maker, their ethos and processes. I thought it would be fun to extend this to my blog.

Gilda Baron 09 
 Image of Gilda courtesy of Colouriciuos

I am delighted to present the talented Gilda Baron, who will teaching 2 textile workshops this month at Fabrications. In 'Don't Bin it, print with it!' Gilda will share fabric printing methods with a twist! In the afternoon you can stay on and learn different hand embroidery techniques and learn how to embellish your printed fabrics created in the morning or other fabrics!

Textile piece by Gilda using printing (from rubbish!) and hand embroidery.

Barley: Where do you draw inspiration for your work?

Gilda: I try and have a sketch book at hand when on holiday, although it is sometimes not easy, as it maybe pouring with rain, freezing cold, or nowhere to stop and get my pencils out.
I only carry a very small notebook mini coloured pencils and a black pen.
Barley: Your work is so multi layered, using a number of different textile processes in a piece, do you have a favourite technique?

Gilda: I have developed a unique style of textile art, which bursts out of the frame with life and vitality.  The techniques I use to achieve this include fabric dyeing, batik, hand and machine embroidery, hand made felt and applied pieces. The many layers are what makes my textile art so distinctive and draws the viewer into the scenes
I love all the techniques! 

Barley: You have led a very accomplished and long textile career, can you share some highlights?

Gilda: Life has been good and so many special things and people.
I think the first of the many was convincing everyone that I wanted to go to Shoreditch Technical School, for the Garment Trades when I was only 12 years old and not stay at school and take O levels and do a Commercial course as nice girls did in my youth.
At the other end of my life to be invited to teach at the V&A Museum last year
Gilda running her 'Don't bin it, print with it! workshop at The Attic, Lines of Pinner

Barley: What can participants expect from your classes you will be offering at Fabrications?

Gilda: Finding throw away items to print with, your rubbish will never look the same to you again. But most of all having fun, while learning.


Gilda Baron has a large exhibition of her work at this Spring's 'Knitting and Stitching Show' in Olympia, 13th - 16th March. Go and meet Gilda and her amazing textile works and then book onto her workshop at Fabrications for a unique learning experience with a special, internationally recognised textile artist.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

How thoughts create reality

Albert Einstein said "The world we have created is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking"

I decided to stitch Confucius' wise words "A journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step". I am using it as a meditative reminder to help me on my personal path of growth!

This year I am thinking about my thinking and how my thoughts can impact on my actions or non actions! In January, Sarah Corbett, founder of Craftivist Collective hosted a thought provoking new year's resolution 'Craftivist footprint' workshop at Fabrications, which encouraged participants to think about their imprint on the world, what it means to be a global citizen and stitch an intention on a pre prepared foot or shoe print.

Sarah provided all the participants with their own mini tool kit including a description of what a 'good global citizen is someone who'.......
*Is aware of the wider world & has a sense of their own role as a world citizen
* Respects and values diversity
* Has an understanding of how the world works economically, politically, socially, environmentally
* Is outraged by social injustice
* Participates in and contributes to the community at a range of levels from local to global
* Is willing to act to make the world a more sustainable place
* Takes responsibility for their actions
(Source: Oxfam 1997)

As well as very interesting discussions on these points as a group, Sarah created a space of 'stitching in silence' so that individually we could really concentrate on our sewing, still our minds to really focus on our intention.

Craftivist Foot print workshop - all full house with Italian TV crew as well!

In February, I enrolled on a short course on the MIND at the New Acropolis. I feel I've discovered a bit of a secret gem (although the association has been residing in Islington for 15 years) New Acropolis is a philosophical association with a cultural and social vocation whose objective is to practise philosophy in the classical tradition, that is not merely intellectual and theoretical philosophy but philosophy for life, for a more humane and fulfilling existence. 

The NA's belief is that the mind is an important key to building a sustainable future. Many of the problems we are facing today as humanity are caused by our own actions. Their school provides a space for awakening a spirit of universal brotherhood/sisterhood through an ethical and moral approach based on the idea that it is by improving ourselves that we can improve the world.

 "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world" (Buddha)

Week 1 we looked at and discussed mindsets, assumptions, perception, mental filters  - VERY INTERESTING!
Week 2 explored concentration and inner awakening. Taking away our conceptions (ideas in our mind) to meet what IS without our filters or judgements coming in. We focused specifically on an art work drawn by Lama Blo-Bzang Don-yod in the 17th Century. The purpose of the drawing is a tool to awaken the path of the soul and to overcome the obstacles and difficulties in conquering our mind through simple daily physical and mental exercises. The New Acropolis have produced a beautiful little book called 'Concentration & Inner Awakening' containing the illustration and how to understand the symbolic elements contained within it.
This week is the final part of the course and will look at how to develop our minds creatively. Imagination and the ability to create what does not yet exist, to cultivate and further our minds.

"The real magic of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes" Marcel Provost (1899)

Friday, 3 January 2014

Out with the old in with the new

"Out with the old and in with the new" are very rare words at Fabrications! More likely is the practise of "In with the old to bring out the new". But at the end of last year I found myself upgrading the much loved shop Chesterfield sofa, aka Tommy the cat's throne or giant scratching post.

Last act of resistance from Tommy the cat as the old sofa is collected and moved out of the shop

The sofa was originally rescued from a street corner in Deptford, South London about 10 years ago. At that stage I sensed it had already led a very full life, as it was missing it's seating cushions and had aged with laughter lines and marks around the edges. But I felt there was life in the old dog eared sofa yet.

Saxoneers deliver the new Chesterfield sofa

So I recreated the seating cushions as best I could using what was to hand - some red vinyl offcuts and reclaimed foam, and the old Chesterfield sofa had a second youth. Being taken around various festivals and events (see forthcoming album!) And keeping many a partner comfortable while the other half browsed the shop and of course providing Tommy the cat a platform to meet and greet his adoring fans!

Barley tries out the new sofa

So how is it that I managed to replace such a reliable, well loved friend? The new version was offered as a gift, which would have been rude to refuse! Handmade in Britain by Saxon, who have been hand crafting Chesterfield's for over 30 years. So I hope you will forgive me dear reader, but I can reassure you that my old sofa has found a new life in a basement cinema / speakeasy and goes on to live another day!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Knitting - a space for creation and destruction

This month Fabrications' blog has a special contribution from Jonathan Faiers, reader in fashion and textile theory at Winchester School of ArtPart of this text has been previously published in the essay by Jonathan ‘From Rei Kawakubo to Mark Fast: The Void in Knitting, Or How Formlessness Shaped Up’, in Unravel: Knitwear in Fashion, MOMU, Antwerp, 2011
Jonathan has also published a few books and last month launched his latest book "Dressing Dangerously" - Dysfynctional Fashion in Film (published by Yale University Press ) at Hackney's 'Trampery'.

'Dressing Dangerously' book cover Yale University Press

Since 1982 when Rei Kawakubo instructed her knitting machine operators to loosen some of the screws on their machines so that random holes would be knitted into her sweaters, the distressed or 'unravelled' has taken centre stage on the knitting runway. The radical approach adopted by Kawakubo and her contemporaries was simultaneously indebted to punk’s rejection of conventional formulations of body aesthetics as well as a philosophical exploration of the potential of the void or the 'formless'. Holes in knitting imply chaos and order, destruction and creation, and Kawakubo’s apparent random deployment of them suggested the limitlessness of space. This text will utilise Georges Bataille’s investigation of the term informe (formless), to consider Kawakubo’s ‘lace’ sweater as an operation or process that encourages a dialogue regarding notions of craft (knitting and lace), the complete and the partial, and the dysfunctional as an alternative way of understanding clothing and its relationship to the body.

Image sourced from KnitGrandeur

In the early 1980s the appearance on the European fashion stage of Rei Kawakubo’s work, including garments such as the ‘lace’ sweater, has been well documented. The confusion caused by her work as well as Yohji Yamamoto’s is succinctly expressed by Colin McDowell who notes that: “within one season, they gave French fashion an inferiority complex verging on a communal nervous breakdown; excited hopes and dreams in young British designers and students; panicked the Italians and totally bewildered the Americans.”[i] However, whilst the assessment of the so called Japanese revolution in fashion has naturally centred on the most spectacular/difficult/aesthetic/nihilistic collections (any number of adjectives have been deployed to describe their work according to the prevailing perspective of the commentator), it is perhaps a garment such as the ‘lace’ sweater which most effectively conveys Kawakubo’s approach to making clothes.

Knitting at its most fundamental level is an operation that makes something from nothing. The act of enclosing spaces or more precisely setting up temporary enclosures is after all what the practice of knitting consists of. The exploration of tension, both literally as in the tension of the particular knitting stitch and emotionally when conscious of knitting’s potential to unravel, seems in Kawakubo’s ‘lace’ sweater to be its primary function. Furthermore it can be argued that the demonstration of this tension and other states (which will be discussed shortly), takes precedence over its function as a garment. As a dysfunctional garment, however, the ‘lace’ sweater presents a number of opportunities to explore how knitting relates to other crafts, how it oscillates between fashion and non-fashion and how it intersects with the body. 

Image from 'Unravel - knitwear in fashion' exhibition MOMU, Antwerp 2011

On examining the sweater in more detail it becomes apparent that it is a ‘formless’ garment structurally - it is full of holes that position it as a piece of clothing on the verge of imminent dispersal or collapse, and it is also formless in relation to how it might be worn – there is a superfluous ‘peplum’ hanging below the ribbing, the sleeves cover the hands if not folded back and the larger holes offer the possibility of multiple points of entry for the head and arms. Its holes also undermine one of the most commonly prized attributes of knitting, which is to provide warmth. As is well known mesh, or net-like fabrics (such as knitting) consisting of regular enclosures have an ability to trap air and therefore provide a layer of warmth when worn on the body (the string vest effect), Kawakubo’s sweater with its random larger holes disrupts this, negating its thermal properties and transforms it into a dysfunctional sweater. Of course as can be seen in the illustration the sweater was originally designed to be worn over another garment, which would go some way to restoring its heat generating properties; however it could also be argued that this transforms the sweater into a purely decorative garment divested of its chief function.

Dropping Stitches, Step 3

Image from StitchDiva's tutorial on how to purposefully drop stitches!

The apparent devaluing of the process of following a pattern, of not ‘dropping a stitch’ and finishing off the garment sought after in hand and machine knitting alike, coupled with the ‘betrayal’ of knitting’s function to keep us warm positions the sweater firmly as fashion rather than knitting. The bewilderment, and in some quarters, anger that garments such as the ‘lace’ sweater generated when first produced suggest that it presented a threat to accepted vestimentary codes, and in addition it exposed the intrinsic formlessness and impermanence that resides at the heart of the craft of knitting. But, as Bataille proposed when discussing Manet’s painting: “To break up the subject and re-establish it on a different basis is not to neglect the subject; so it is in a sacrifice, which takes liberties with the victim and even kills it, but cannot be said to neglect it” [ii] These “liberties” are presumably what the fashion establishment felt could not be taken, but as we have seen Kawakubo’s desire for the imperfect and the accidental that is found in the operation of formlessness has since become part of the language of fashion.

Image from 'Unravel - knitwear in fashion' exhibition MOMU, Antwerp 2011. Thanks to Shady Chronicles Blog

It is perhaps on the level of economy that Kawakubo’s ‘lace’ sweater diverges most significantly from Bataille’s notion of the informe, and provides new insight into the sweater’s titular reference to lace making. Lace, like knitting is a fabric that is constructed from the enclosure of small spaces, but this structural relationship aside, the two crafts differ significantly. Of course both are labour intensive activities, but hand-made lace far outstrips hand knitting in terms of the amount of time taken to produce an equal amount of fabric. This fundamental difference of course results in lace’s most commonly understood quality – its rarity and therefore value. As a result of its costliness the history of lace is both violent and strangely corporeal, littered with murders, and other more bizarre bodily contacts between fabric and flesh. The stories of lengths of lace bound around the body, of being secreted amongst corpses and even inserted underneath the skinned pelts of dogs, all in order to escape the heavy tax duties imposed on lace during the height of its popularity, suggest a discourse that juxtaposes the prized with the worthless similar to Bataille’s consideration of the “movement from refuse to ideal.”[iii]

But Kawakubo’s ‘lace’ sweater is far from refuse, even if it could be argued it is masquerading as such. Its classification as ‘fashion’ elevates it from its contingent knitting groups of the second-hand, the moth-eaten, and the thread-bare and passes from formless knitting to fully formed fashion. As Bataille warns: “In this way formless is not only an adjective having such and such a meaning, but a term serving to declassify, requiring in general that every thing should have a form. What it designates does not, in any sense whatever, possess rights, and everywhere gets crushed like a spider or an earthworm.”[iv] The economy of fashion is such that Kawakubo’s sweater can only survive fleetingly as ‘formless’, its larval stage as an indeterminate form somewhere between knitting and sculpture cannot be allowed and therefore lasts no longer than its initial showing and then is swiftly transformed into its mature form – fashion.                

 Image by Twisted Twee 'Moth patches'

So it would seem that within the fashion industry at least formlessness is never allowed to remain so for long. Rei Kawakubo's 'lace' sweater momentarily seemed to fulfill Bataille's promise of the informe being not only an adjective but also an operation, however her work was swiftly categorised as conceptual fashion, and has become fossilised as such. 'Formless' fashion it seems is not permissible and as Bataille declared: "…does not, in any sense whatever, possess rights, and everywhere gets crushed like a spider or an earthworm."[v] So perhaps it is fitting that the only true architect or designer of the formless in fashion knitting: "… is something akin to a spider of a gob of spittle." – the moth.[vi]

Jonathan's paper "Knitting and Catastrophe" will be published in Issue 12:1 of the Textile Journal of Cloth and Culture alongside a selection of paper from the 'In the Loop' conference. 

[i] Colin McDowell (2000) Fashion Today, p.134.
[ii] Bois & Krauss, p. 21.
[iii] A concept detailed in ‘The Big Toe’ in Allan Stoekl (ed.) (1985) Georges Bataille: Visions of Excess Selected Writings 1927-1939 , pp.20-3.
[iv] Georges Bataille ‘Formless’ in (1995) Encyclopaedia Acephalica, p.51.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Upcycling Academy at this year's Knitting and Stitching show

Last month, I took my 'Upcycling Academy' experience to the Knitting and Stitching show. Now in it's third year the aim of the Upcycling Academy is to raise awareness and 'create change' to the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry through creative and thought provoking activities which can be delivered at large events or in smaller gatherings. Recently 6th form students at Woodford High school, engaged with the Upcycling Academy team on their induction day. 

As well as adding value through creativity and design, the Upcycling Academy promotes the value of working collaboratively and collectively. I approached Traid, War on Want and The Craftivist Collective to bring their perspective to the experience and give participants a well rounded picture.

Here is our 'productive line' of workshops. The spirit of The Upcycling Academy was well captured in pictures this year by Rosie Allt, who kindly offered us her photography skills.
Brother sewing UK supported the 'chop & change' upcycling of clothes area with their easy to use NV10a sewing machines, which worked like a dream in this busy area.

This was a quiet moment!! A hive of activity and discussions.

Fabrications recycled rosettes were popular again!

Traid's 'Sew Good' workshops appealed to all ages

Here is the lovely Sarah Corbett, founder of the 'Craftivist Collective' who joined The Upcycling Academy team for the first time this year. She created a hand stitched petition in conjunction with War on Want's 'Love Fashion Hate sweatshops' campaign.

Participants were invited to add their hand stitched signature to the petition. Extra fabric was needed by day 2 as the embroidered signatures over spilled the petition.

Here I am (Barley Massey) showing people a variety of upcycled textile techniques, including 'MACRO' knitting & french knitting and peg loom weaving,

A beautiful atmosphere was created, with all kinds of people coming together to try new skills, share ideas, experiences and talk about the issues the Upcycling Academy provokes.